POSTED: 10 May 2006 - 8:00am

Recommendations to slow chaotic development

by Juan Wilson on 10 May 2006

Over two years ago we wrote:
"Life on Kauai is being destroyed by traffic and over development... Building Highways Does Not Fix Traffic Jams" [see [Traffic Suggestions].

It can be added that "Fixing Traffic Problems Does Not Fix Over Development"
Development on Kauai is out of control. It is not happening in a way that is either sustainable or desirable.

Some prefer to use the term "self-sustainability", others the term "carrying capacity". Both point to a novel idea for Americans: an economy not based on growth - but a balance between people, resources and the health of the environment: something the Hawaiians called “pono”. An economy on an isolated island is a good place to build a model of "self sustainability". Obviously, on a larger scale, all people are on an isolated Island Earth.

It follows that any economy based on sustained growth and an expanding population is doomed to self destruction by overuse of resources and/or destruction of its environment. It is time we stop defining ourselves as "consumers" and start thinking of ourselves as "sustainers".

Back in the fall of 2004 began a process to update our Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO). At that time our mayor said...

"All CZO issues come down to growth issues. It's about keeping rural lifestyles and characteristics with a growing population."

Here is the source of many problems. Our planning and zoning should be designed to achieve and maintain a desirable population and level of development... not just accommodate growth as a necessity.

I suggest that the County Council immediately fund an updating of our General Plan. The underlying philosophy of that update should include the goal of identifying and and achieving a desirable population and build-out of Kauai with two important principles in mind.

• One: we will need to provide for ourselves for the bulk of the food and energy we need in the future.

• Two: we will need to rely on economic activity other than the tourism industry as a basis for economic health.

The updating of the CZO should be put on hold until the General Plan is updated. Moreover, the updated General Plan should have implementation strategies built into it and should become the binding control on development... not just an amorphous guide that is widely ignored.

Once the General Plan update is begun there are several steps short of a building moratorium that can be implemented to get things under control.

1) The Planning Commission should deny all Zoning Variances that increase density or intensity of use.

2) There should be no Zoning designation upgrades allowed;
e.g. Open Space changed to Residential

3) The current General Plan should be strictly adhered to;
e.g. no Resort Development outside of designated areas

4) The State Special Management Area requirements being supported by the County;
e.g. Require and enforce SMA permit requirements

5) The County should not allow "after the fact" permits without severe penalties

6) The Planning Department should deny all Additional Dwelling Unit (ADU) permits to units not attached to the primary residence;
e.g. ADU's should again be attached ohanas for family members

7) The County Council should allow the ADU provision for Rural districts to expire, thus cutting out a de facto 1/4 acre residential zoning.

8)There should be a 100% ban on Agricultural subdivisions for residential use

We don't think these ideas are extreme, and most are really just a matter of enforcing existing guidelines and ordinances. This is just a partial list, and we welcome more ideas on this subject, so please think about it and send us your thoughts.

Some would say that these suggestions sound draconian and that applying them would wreck the economy here. Some individuals respond that being against "growth" in the economy is un-American.

My view is that Kauai is already "overbuilt" for an economy with $5 plus a gallon gasoline. We'll have lots of empty time-shares and hotel rooms when a barrel of oil costs $200.

We won't see time-share owners jetting across the Pacific for a week in paradise when they can take a bus to the barrier beaches of South Carolina. Times are changing and we won't have tourism, as we see it today. As a result we will have plenty of housing available for the middle class and lower income families when those visitor accomodations stand empty and the housing bubble bursts. What we won’t have is fuel and food.


see also:
Island Breath: Traffic Suggestions
Island Breath: Koloa Moratorium
Island Breath: A&B Southside Plans

Island Breath: Comprehensive Zoning
Island Breath: Poipu Over Development
Island Breath: More on the Way